Review: ‘Orphans and Kingdoms’ Delivers the Rarest of Micro-Budget Gems


Low budget and local all too often translate to what’s basically a TV movie bunged up on the big screen. In his feature debut, writer/director Paolo Rotondo deftly avoids all the usual clichés and pitfalls, cleverly keeping the action largely confined to a home under siege, and delivering that rarest of micro-budget gems – a real honest-to-the-moniker movie.

Hanelle Harris, Jesse-James Rehu Pickery, and Calae Hignett-Morgan are never less than convincing as the tearaway teens, escaping the Auckland mainland to hang out, shoplift and purse-snatch on Waiheke Island, before breaking in to an upmarket house to raid the drinks cabinet and graffiti the walls. The young acting trio bring a real sense of loving, if broken, family, and a palpable air of menace to the owner of the upmarket beachfront home they invade.

The politics of privilege and race, have and have-nots, may be contentious, but this is a New Zealand film with a wider underlying message about whānau that’s heartfelt and, ultimately, hits home. As the troubled delinquents tell their equally troubled captive: “You’re our family. We’re wards of the state – we’re everyone’s kids.”

As the home owner turned hostage, Colin Moy quietly radiates the sense of a man broken by his spiritual burden. Tough, tense, realistic and rough, deliberately paced, and never shirking moments of silence, violence and, ultimately, reconciliation, Orphans and Kingdoms is a tightly scripted, sincerely acted, ably-directed/shot/soundtracked and edited example of a little film with a big heart, crafted with a care and commendable commitment that belies its humble budget and technical constraints.

‘Orphans and Kingdoms’ Movie Times

Other Low-Budget Kiwi Films: Fantail, Sunday, The Pā Boys